"Clinical trials are the scientific soul of cancer-cure advances, but nearly 20 percent of these publicly funded studies fail to draw enough patients to render verdicts on experimental therapies, investigators reported Tuesday.
That failure rate represents stalled progress in the pursuit of better cancer drugs and techniques – and “a waste of scarce human and economic resources,” according to a study by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington.
The Hutch researchers found that 18 percent of cooperative-group-sponsored trials closed due to low patient-accrual rates – or were accruing at less than 50 percent of the targeted participation number three or more years after launch.
Scientists already struggle to convince cancer patients to join clinical trials. Nationally, only 3 to 5 percent of adult cancer patients enroll in these studies.
And, then, there are highly motivated patients, like Wendy Ramsey, 60, diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
To combat her disease, Ramsey participated in four different trials. Today, she’s nearly four years into a Phase 1 clinical trial initially conducted through Fred Hutch to test a new treatment.
“It has been so very successful for me, I am generally in awe of my life these days,” said Ramsey, who lives in Idaho.
For that trial, she takes three pills daily with no detectable side effects, she said. She cycles, hikes and travels. Her doctor has told her she is in remission.
“As the months roll by, I sometimes stop and remember that I am a cancer patient,” Ramsey said. “Life is that normal. The trial is life changing for me.”
To teach herself how to find and review trials, she painstakingly tapped an online community of CLL patients.
“It taught me that cancer treatment is always a risk-versus-reward decision,” Ramsey said. “… It showed me that cancer patients live in a world with a very high level of hope – because we have to.”
“It is well documented that patients on clinical trials have better outcomes than those who do not participate,” Raghavan wrote. “… We should strive to improve trial enrollment, giving the associated potential for improved results.” :
Photo: You can't harvest unless you sow; a farmer harvesting a barley crop